Posts Tagged ‘household chores’

The upside of being a biking widow

April 3, 2012

We’re entering the time of year when I become a biking widow — meaning that Sam is in training for a monster ride over the summer, and thus as likely to be found pedaling up Tunnel Road or over Mount Diablo as spending time around the house.

This is not so bad. I’d rather be a biking widow than a Sunday-afternoon-football widow. And today I discovered a bright lining to this cloud.

I replaced our back door lock!

Note the before and the after pictures:

This may not seem like a big deal, but I am just about the least handy person around. I’m a major feminist in theory, but not so much in practice when practice involves changing tires, finding studs in walls, or doing anything that involves power tools.

(In my egalitarian defense: I’m terrible at sewing too.)

A few days ago, the knob fell out of our back door. Sam said he would “get to it” this coming weekend. However, this coming weekend involves not just his bike training regimen but also hosting two Passover seders with a total of 43 people, so I figured maybe I should just deal with this now. Today I went to Ace Grand Lake Hardware with the pieces of the defunct knob/lock, bought a replacement set, and installed it myself!

Granted, there was no drilling, sawing or electric motors involved. I had to unscrew and then re-screw a total of four screws.

But I still feel like Superman and Martha Stewart combined.

One pathetic step for womankind, one big step for Ilana.

Am I my daughter’s laundress?

August 24, 2011

That’s a rhetorical question, and of course you’re all going to tell me, “No! At 17, your daughter is old enough to do her own laundry.” And you’re right.

But… it’s complicated.

Today is Daughter’s first day back at high school as a senior. Last spring, I decided it was time for her to do her own laundry. Since she was in the throes of finals and SAT prep, I figured wait until the start of senior year – a nice, clear delineation point.

Why have I been doing her laundry up until now, though? Plenty of teens do it themselves. If we had a larger family – if I were like my friend Janine, with three children and an hour-long commute each way to a corporate legal job in Silicon Valley – my daughter would have been doing her own laundry for years. I know what Wendy Mogul and all the other parenting experts say about the need to give teens responsibility, not coddle them, not be helicopter parents, and so on.

But here’s the thing: Doing her laundry has felt like love to me.

My own mother did everything for us. Granted, she was a stay-at-home mom in a pre-feminist era, but she did everything! She did our laundry, made our lunches, dusted and vacuumed our rooms, I think even made our beds until we went off to college. It was excessive. My sister, brother and I should have been given more responsibility. But none of us turned out spoiled, selfish or slovenly. We felt loved and cared-for.

Now an adult myself, I want to do things for the people I love. With Sam, I reflexively look for little ways to help — pick up his dry cleaning when he has a busy week, save the science section of the New York Times for him when he’s traveling. He does the same for me. When it comes to laundry, we both do each other’s. One shared hamper, throw it all in the machine, dump the clean clothes on our bed to sort and fold. It works well and we pretty much end up doing an equal amount.

So it’s felt weird over the years to think of NOT doing Daughter’s laundry too.  Particularly with an only child, it felt like sending a message of exclusion: “Sam and I will take care of each other, but you’re out on your own.”

One solution might be to bring Daughter into the mix and have her take a turn doing the whole household’s laundry. Great idea – in theory. In practice, it would mean one more task to nag her about and fight over. I don’t want my clean underwear held hostage to the riveting social life and general procrastination of a teenager.

So I’ve done her laundry. But last spring, as we started looking at colleges, I realized it was time to stop. I didn’t want her to show up in her freshman dorm not knowing how to turn on a washing machine.  It’s like making our pre-schoolers learn to dress themselves and tie their own shoes. Doing laundry for her may = love, but forcing her to learn how to do her own laundry also = love.

So, okay. Resolved. It’s day one of senior year and time for me to retire as laundress.

But I have this feeling of dread. I picture piles of (dirty? clean? indistinguishable?) clothes on her floor and wails at 6:15 in the morning, “I don’t have any pants to wear!”

And as she becomes ever more independent in so many other ways, I already miss this one little way of still taking care of her.